Jake Sullivan defends Biden’s record on Israel at AJC conference
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, speaks with Ted Deutch, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, at the AJC’s Global Forum on June 11, 2024 in Washington. Credit: Jonathan Ernst/AJC. | Jonathan Ernst/AJC

“There is absolutely no daylight between Joe Biden and Israel,” said the U.S. national security advisor. “None. Zero.”

By Andrew Bernard
June 11, 2024

As U.S. President Joe Biden faces growing criticism from Jewish and pro-Israel groups about his and his administration’s response to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, defended his boss at the American Jewish Committee’s annual Global Forum on Tuesday.

“On the core strategic objective—the enduring defeat of the terrorist threats against the state of Israel—there is absolutely no daylight between Joe Biden and Israel,” Sullivan said on Tuesday morning. “None. Zero.” 

“The debates are over not the ‘what,’ not the objective, but rather over tactical issues, over operational issues, over particular steps that we would like to see taken,” the U.S. national security advisor said. “Because we think it’s not just in our interest, but frankly, we think it is consistent with Israel’s interests and values too.”

Biden laid out an Israeli ceasefire-for-hostages proposal on May 31 that would see the release of all hostages in exchange for a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the release of a yet-undisclosed number of Palestinian prisoners and a permanent end to hostilities.

“It’s time for this war to end,” Biden said at the time.

The terms of the deal that Biden outlined neither required Hamas to surrender nor to leave the Gaza Strip, which left the question open how the deal would be consistent with removing the U.S.-designated terror organization from power.

Sullivan said on Tuesday that negotiations between intervals of the three-phased deal would produce a new Palestinian government in Gaza.

“If we get into a deal and we work through the phases, we can end up with an interim security enterprise and interim governance enterprise that can lead to a Gaza that is no longer a platform for terror, and from which no attacks of the sort that we saw on Oct. 7 can ever be conducted again against Israel,” Sullivan said at the AJC event.

Sullivan added that Palestinians “can live in dignity and security” in such a situation, and “the Israeli people can know that Gaza will not be a platform for terror that can threaten innocent people in Israel going forward.”

Hamas rejected the proposal on Thursday, and The Wall Street Journal reported that Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, believes that he is in a strong negotiating position, per recent messages he sent to the negotiators.

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Sinwar said in one message to Hamas officials.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a humanitarian aid conference in Jordan on Tuesday that Hamas is the “one—and only one” thing preventing the deal from going forward.

‘Not be under threat there’

On Tuesday, Sullivan described a series of positive knock-on effects if the ceasefire deal goes through that he said would be a “game-changer” in terms of opportunities for Israel, including the return of Israelis to the evacuated strip of communities along the Lebanese border that is currently under frequent rocket fire from Hezbollah.

“If we get to a ceasefire in Gaza, we can get to calm in Lebanon, and we can work out a diplomatic arrangement where tens of thousands of Israeli citizens can return to their homes and know that they will not be under threat there,” Sullivan said. 

“We can have a day after in Gaza where the Arab states play a significant role in both stabilizing and reconstructing Gaza, so that it is not that platform for terror that it has been in the past,” he said. “We can begin down a pathway of Israel’s full integration into the region, including normalization with additional countries, including potentially Saudi Arabia.”

The Biden administration has been seeking a package deal with Riyadh since before Oct. 7 that would include the kingdom normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for a formal U.S.-Saudi security pact. 

The Saudis have also said in public statements that they will not recognize Israel until the Jewish state recognizes a Palestinian state. Sullivan said on Tuesday that the deal is for “a credible pathway to a Palestinian state.”

The Biden administration remains committed to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added. He acknowledged Israeli critics of a two-state solution who believe that an independent Palestine would be a haven for terrorism.

“I recognize that there are deep concerns and worries, not just in the Israeli government but in the Israeli public on this issue,” he said. “We have to acknowledge that and work to address those concerns.”

“But I believe there’s nothing inconsistent with a credible pathway to a Palestinian state and a long-term secure future for Israel,” he added.

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